The Funeral Service Foundation: A Q&A with Bill Wappner, Chair Elect

Posted September 28, 2016

5 min read

The Funeral Service Foundation is the leading public foundation that is dedicated to serving the deathcare profession. Since 1945, the Foundation has been helping funeral professionals engage with their local communities. Its Board of Trustees is made up people from across our profession, whose participation is based on their commitment to the Foundation’s mission to fund projects and programs that support all of funeral service.

We spoke with the Chair Elect, Bill Wappner, about his role in helping the Foundation build meaningful relationships with the community and how younger funeral directors can get involved.

Q: For those unfamiliar, what does the Funeral Service Foundation do?

Bill Wappner: The Foundation’s mission in a very broad sense is to support funeral service in building meaningful relationships with families and the communities it serves. We wish to help families understand that funeral service professionals can assist with meaningful services, which can be an essential part of their grief journey to coping with loss.

We support our mission through our giving pillars. We work to fuel the careers of funeral service professionals through scholarships, professional development, outreach, and tools and resources, and we fund and promote initiatives and outreach that make a measurable impact on funeral service.

Q: Can you share more about your role on the board?

Bill Wappner: In October, I will become the 2016-2017 Chair. I am honored to continue the relevant work carried out by three generations of visionary funeral service professionals. And I am looking forward to collaborating with such an engaged and passionate board of trustees and staff to continue to make a measurable impact on funeral service, and work toward our vision of an improved end-of-life experience for families and their loved ones.

Q: And how does your role also tie-in with the other ways in which the Foundation supports the funeral profession?

Bill Wappner: The Funeral Service Foundation is a unique non-profit organization that serves as the profession’s primary philanthropic voice. We support funeral service in a way no other organization is doing right now.

The Foundation is headed by a national board of trustees made up of 60 percent funeral directors and 40 percent allied professionals. We oversee and shape the Foundation’s strategic direction, establish mission-focused policies and programs, responsibly grow and preserve assets, award grants, and support the staff in carrying out the Foundation’s mission and vision.

Q: How can younger funeral professionals get involved?

Bill Wappner: Since 1945, we’ve fueled the careers of more than 6,000 funeral service professionals through our involvement in academic and continuing education. Each year, we award academic scholarships to full- and part-time students of funeral services, and support professional development opportunities including the National Funeral Director Association’s Meet the Mentors program and scholarships to its annual Professional Women’s Conference. We’re looking to expand our professional development in 2017 to support additional NFDA continuing education programs.

We’ve also recently launched Club ’45. Named for the year the Foundation was established, the club gives a voice in shaping the next generation of funeral service to emerging leaders who have benefited from or expressed interest in Foundation-supported initiatives and scholarships. The board of trustees is also making a concerted effort to involve the profession’s emerging leaders in our numerous committees and with the board as a whole.

Q: The Foundation supports funeral professionals in a variety of ways. What’s something you are especially proud of that the Foundation has been involved with lately?

Bill Wappner: Funeral directors always wanted a national campaign promoting the value of what they do. I am very proud of the Foundation’s involvement in the Have the Talk of a Lifetime® social media and grassroots public awareness initiative.

As funeral professionals, we know that when families plan a meaningful funeral that reflects the unique life of their loved one, they take an important step in the journey toward healing after the death of a loved one. While individual scholarships don’t make a big splash in the industry news, they do make a big difference for those young professionals getting them. For some it can be a turning point in their careers.

And, I don’t want to forget the Foundation’s support for the Hurricane Katrina Memorial, which helped New Orleans lay to rest nearly 100 of the devastating hurricane’s unclaimed victims.

For more about the Funeral Service Foundation and its work, click here.

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About Bill Wappner

Bill Wappner attended the Ohio State University and Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. He received his Funeral Director and Embalmer license in 1975. William, along with Thomas Wappner, took over the ownership of the original Wappner Funeral Directors in 1987 after the death of the Wappner generation before them.

William is a respected member of the business community as a Past President of the National Funeral Directors Association; Past President of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association; Past Policy Board Member and Past Chairman of the Government Regulatory Committee of the National Funeral Directors Association; a board member of the Ohio Crematory Operators Association; board member of Mansfield Memorial Homes; a member of the Preferred Funeral Directors International; and other civic organizations. He is also active in the community as a member of the Board of Directors of the North and Central Ohio Volunteers of American, Inc., Past Master of the Mansfield Lodge #35F. & A.M.

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